4 Sons & Sons

A discussion of Pesah/Passover generally and the Hagadah specifically. Please comment and contribute!

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Finger

The Haggadah quotes from Mekhilta Ex. 14:31.:

In Egypt it says of them, "The magicians said to Pharaoh `This is the finger of G-d.' (Shemot 8:15) At the sea it says, "Israel saw the great hand that the L-rd laid against Egypt; and the people feared the L-rd, and they believed in the L-rd and in His servant Moses." (Shemot 14:31) Now, how often were they smitten by `the finger'? Ten plagues. Thus you must conclude that in Egypt they were smitten by ten plagues, at the sea they were smitten by [the hand with] fifty plagues.

Aryeh Kaplan offers the possibility that the "finger of G-d" is related to the ancient Egyptian word etzba or tzaba, denoting both finger and retribution.

The Avudraham takes issue with the finger/hand idea since the finger is only mentioned in one place and G-d’s hand is mentioned in another. However, the hand is mentioned by the 5th plague, the culmination of 5 fingers. Also, it says that Hashem took us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and outstretched arm, 2 hands. (Emanuel)

R. Yosi quotes va-yaminu etc. The word va-yaminu occurs one other place in Tanakh, Yonah 3:5. This is when the people of Nineveh respond to Yonah's prophecy. This corresponds to the midrash (Midrash Socher Tov) that says that Pharaoh survived the Red Sea and became king of Nineveh. Like the Israelites, after the miracle, he believed in God and repented when confronted by Yonah. (Baal ha-Turim)

The Ibn Ezra turns this idea on its head. He feels that when the magicians refer to the finger of God, they mean the god of nature whom they did not identify with the God of the Israelites. That puts their statement in an entirely different light.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Ok, I've been a bit lax in posting as of late, but parashat Shemot is here and I'm ready to go:

"The Egyptians treated us badly," as it is said: Come, let us deal wisely them lest they multiply and, if there should be a war against us, they will join our enemies, fight against us and move up out of the land." (Shemot 1:10)

The gematria of the word havah, come is 12. That is to say, come let us outsmart the 12 tribes. (Baal ha-Turim)

Legends of the Jews says that the Israelites had shown their military prowess in Egypt's war against Zepho, the grandson of Esav. The Pharaoh feared they might turn against him.

The Ramban says that Pharaoh dealt wisely by not giving official soldiers or executioners the task of killing Jewish children. This way he could claim to search for the real killers if there were any complaints. Only later did this become official policy.

The Orah Hayim suggests that the slavery in Egypt was due to the unjust economic policies of Yosef when he was the viceroy of Egypt. The same verb “nithakam” is used both by Yosef and Pharoah when he is concerned with dealing the Bene Yisrael. Yosef would only accept cash payments during the time of famine, thereby accelerating the poverty of farmers.

According to Patricia Turner, during World War II, African Americans were accused of belonging to "Swastika clubs" and "Black Dragon societies." Sound familiar?

Friday, January 13, 2006


With parashat Shemot upon us, we have several relevant postings:

Mar Gavriel daydreams about Pesah.

At close look at the 1st chapter of Shemot (Exodus).

As does Parshablog.

DovBear takes a detailed look at Rashi on Shemot 2:23.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

An Oldie but a Goodie

Today I came across a braille Haggadah and was reminded of the following joke:

A blind man is given a piece of matzah. He runs his fingers across it and exclaims: "Who wrote this nonsense!"

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Lemon Angel Pie

Another delightful Pesach recipe here

Thursday, December 29, 2005


Lamedzayin relates the baraita of the four sons to the whole Slifkin debacle and the nature of critical inquiry within Judaism. Required reading.

Hirhurim has a post on the nature of darkness which, of course, related to the biblical plague of darkness.

And you thought my blog was overly specific. Check out: http://pesachotels.blogspot.com/

Hirhurim echoes my thoughts on Mi yimalel, but, of course, says it more eloquently.

This great site has many audio clips of different versions of Ehad mi yodea from around the world.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Barukh ha-Makom

I am way too satiated with homemade sufganiyot to be overly cynical about Hanukah. Hag sameah to all!

Now here's a bit on Barukh ha-Makom which precedes the baraita of the Four Sons in the Haggadah.

Blessed is God (ha-Makom). Blessed be He . Blessed is the One Who gave the Torah to His people Israel. Blessed be He.

G-d is referred to as "ha-Makom", the place. This is explained in Bereshit Rabbah LXVIII:9 "He is the Place of the world and the world is not His place" (Schocken) Guggenheimer believes that ha-Makom originally meant the Bet ha-Mikdash and later came to mean G-d as He is worshipped in the Temple. Kasher and Greenbaum prefer the translation "Blessed is He" rather than "Blessed be He", the latter implying deficiency in G-d. "Blessed" is a description.

Now for the homiletics: The Netsiv relates Barukh ha-Makom to the 4 sons. Barukh ha-Makom relates to the Wise Son. He understands that “He is the Place of the world and the world is not His place". Barukh Hu corresponds to the Wicked Son. We do not mention G-d's name because we do not understand why we are praising Him. Nevertheless, we praise Him for evil as we do for good. Barukh she-natan Torah represents the Tam (Simple Son). He follows the Torah simply because it is G-d's word and requires no further explanation. We repeat Barukh Hu for the She-eno yodea li-she'ol (the one who is unable to ask) for the same reason as the Wicked Son. We don't understand the benefit, but we praise G-d anyway. (Toras Emes)

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